The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute – whose executive director was fired in May in a messy ethics scandal – is getting a new leader: longtime Fort Wayne police officer and Allen County Councilman Mike Cunegin.
The institute’s board of directors Tuesday unanimously ratified Gov. Mitch Daniels’ recommendation for Cunegin to take over the state agency.
Cunegin will give notice of his resignation to the Fort Wayne Police Department today, and plans to resign from the County Council in July.
Reacting to his appointment, Cunegin said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for me.” “It’s exciting. Not only am I representing the governor of our state, but I’m also representing myself and the African-American community.” Actually, Mr. Cunegin, I think you're representing all of the citizens of Indiana if it makes any difference to you.
Kelly notes that Daniels has been criticized in the past for failing to appoint enough "black agency heads." She says Cunegin thinks he's the man for the job. She writes:
Cunegin said his 25 years in law enforcement as well as 12 years on the fiscal-minded council – including two years as president – have been training for an opportunity such as this. The institute oversees state planning for criminal justice, traffic safety and victim services, and administers millions of dollars in state and federal money to carry out long-range strategies.
What the agency really needs is someone with some actual management experience. It is obvious Gov. Daniels placed the importance of appointing an African-American to the post over appointing a person with actual qualifications for the job--someone who might know where to begin in cleaning up the mess at the agency.
UPDATE: A WANE-TV report from August 1, 2005 reported that Cunegin was invited to greet President Bush at the airport during a visit to Ft. Wayne. It notes that Cunegin told WANE-TV that he had Bush sign a book entitled, "The Presidential Prayer Team." Cunegin said of meeting Bush for the second time, “You're always excited to meet the President. I have the highest respect for President Bush on the decisions he had to make for the county. And it's wonderful to not only have that but to also have a Christian man in office.”
I'm sure Cunegin meant well by his statement about having "a Christian man in office." But when our public officials speak in these terms, it implies that they believe there should be a religious litmus test applied to all people who serve in our government. It says to someone of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other religious or non-religious belief that they need not apply. As the Christian right continues to extend its power over the GOP, comments like these keep popping up with greater frequency. And it's frightening to many Americans.